Srinagar, Mar 3: The State High Court has given three months to the Government to address the grievances of the dislocated families of Kishanganga Hydroelectric Power Project.
Court was hearing a petition filed by residents of various villages who were displaced due to acquiring of their land for the construction of 330 MWs Kishanganga Hydroelectric Power Project by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Ltd (NHPC).
After hearing villagers, counsel Altaf Mehraj and State Counsel as well as counsel representing NHPC, the Court directed the authorities to address the grievances of the petitioner villagers after they approached them with a detailed representation with all their grievances and hear them.
“We direct the concerned authorities to afford the writ petitioners a hearing enabling them to place their grievances by a proper representation. The Cabinet Sub-Committee or the delegated authority may hear the grievance of the displaced families. The Commissioner/Secretary for Relief and Rehabilitation is also to take part in the deliberation”, Division Bench of Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice D S Thakur directed.
Court directed the authorities to take the decision on the issues of villagers and communicate the decision to the villagers. “The consideration to be accorded expeditiously preferably within a period of three months from the date of this order”, court said.
Around 245 petitioners claimed that they are displaced families. However, according to the authorities, the project affected 185 families. Court said it is not a matter of dispute at this point of time. “That, we are not inclined to go into this aspect of the matter as we propose to address the petitioners grievance in an appropriate manner”, DB of Justice Lingam and Justice Thakur said.
Court said the grievance of the petitioners should be addressed at the first instance by the respondents. “If the grievance of displaced families is justified then the appropriate authority to accord consideration in the first instance would be the sub-committee of the cabinet which has been delegated the power to examine the rehabilitation and resettlement plan for the project affected families consequent to Kishanganga Hydroelectric Power Project in district Bandipora”, Court said.
Underscoring the ruling of Supreme Court, the DB said it should not embark on an issue as to whether a particular policy is correct or not. It is left to the discretion of the lawmakers and the administration to form policies to serve public interest at large or as in this case a group of displaces people.
In the year 2007, the Ministry of Rural Development department of Land Resources in its resolution, formulated a National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy,2007 providing rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced persons in relation to development of infrastructure by the State.
Advocate Altaf Mehraj representing petitioners submitted before the bench that the displaced persons grievance is that their right to just compensation is affected by the Government not strictly adhering to the policy of 2007 in letter and spirit.
On query from the court as to whether the families have received any compensation and rehabilitated and resettled, the counsel stated that he has no instruction at this point of time on that issue.
The petitioners said keeping in mind the policy of 2007 the displaced families would be entitled to higher compensation and Government of J&K did not formulate a policy for the state in light of 2007 policy and it has caused great prejudice. Their counsel pleaded that it is the duty of the State to ensure that there is policy, which can be applied without any discrimination to displaced people.
However, State Counsel pleaded that the rehabilitation and resettlement plan has been framed taking into consideration inputs given by the stake holders and with the help of the University of Kashmir. Substantial amount has been released and compensation has been paid to the displaced families.
For the establishment of this power project vast portion of land has been acquired and people living in and around that area were to be resettled and rehabilitated keeping in mind the best interest of the State to develop infrastructure for enhancing the power sector and at the same time provide appropriate resettlement to these displaced people and also to rehabilitate them.